Returns from Afghanistan's presidential election, held August 20th, indicate that incumbent President Karzai leads with 54% of the vote over his main challenger, former foreign minister Dr. Abdullah, who has 28%. However, there have been widespread allegations of fraud, including tens of thousands of ballots that were not only forged, but done so in a crude and obvious manner. Some districts show Karzai winning 100% of the vote.
“I do not need any more time,” sighed an election expert, after spending 20 minutes examining ballot boxes in a tally center in Ghazni. “It is pretty obvious.”
Currently, the Electoral Complaints Commission is sorting through the mess, and could end up disqualifying nearly 20% of the 5.5 million votes cast for fraud. In addition to the usual political embarrassment that comes with widespread fraud, those disqualifications would also reduce the already disappointing voter turnout, currently pegged at 35% of registered voters.
Should a large number of Karzai votes be disqualified, his totals might dip below the 50% required to avoid a run-off with Dr. Abdullah. The United States has always strongly supported Karzai, and this turn of events puts us in an awfully awkward position. Given that Karzai is the poster-child for the American democratic experiment, we should strongly rebuke him if these allegations of fraud are found to be true. Better late than never.
The Associated Press has written up a bleak portrait of Afghani frustration with democracy that is definitely worth reading.
For more thorough coverage of the voter fraud allegations, read this piece by GlobalPost's on the ground report, Jean MacKenzie.